Date: Thursday, 12 March
Rebecca Hill (UVA)
“Sufi’s in Exile: The Limitations of American Translation”
Bio: Rebecca Hill is an educator and researcher who specializes in Middle Eastern and North African studies, medieval literature, and global cultural preservation. She holds degrees from New York University, California State University at Dominguez Hills, and UCLA. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Better Futures Foundation and affiliated faculty at the University of Virginia as well as Education Programs Assistant at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in Early Middle English journal and in the forthcoming collection Medieval Bestiaries: New Approaches; and she has presented at top field conferences in the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and India. Her career in education and nonprofits has included teaching at Southern Connecticut State and NYU Abu Dhabi, working at the Pikpa Refugee Camp and with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, and founding the No-Shave November annual fundraiser with the Matthew Hill Foundation.
Abstract: Despite 50 years of mounting tensions with the Middle East, the 20th-century American print consumerate continues to embrace Islam, perhaps unwittingly, through modern English translations of medieval Sufi poetry. While translators such as Coleman Barks, most famous for bringing Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī into the Anglosphere, and Daniel Ladinsky, champion of Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, have come under scrutiny for not only taking translational liberties with these authors but also scrubbing their texts of any traces of Islam, they can also be credited for ushering in a revival of interest in Islamic poetry that petered out during the 19th century. This talk explores efforts to diversify translations of Sufi poets, which could resuscitate the academic press, and acknowledge the role that women have always played in the theological conversations of Islam, particularly as evidenced in Nuzhat al-julasāʼ fī ashʻār al-nisāʼ (a 15th-century compilation by Al-Suyuti).